Dalton Miller of Pro Football Network called Bill Belichick the best head coach in the NFL heading into 2021 on Sunday. A year ago at this time, this would have been universally accepted as fact as the Patriots won six championships [so far] under his tutelage. His team finished 7-9 in 2020 — the same record as the Minnesota Vikings — without Tom Brady during the pandemic season.
All Brady did was win a Super Bowl in Tampa Bay, without Belichick, allotting the 43-year-old quarterback the utmost respect worldwide.
Belichick’s stock took a teensy hit because the curtain was peeled back, so to speak, inferring that perhaps Brady was the breadwinner for New England’s championships. But not according to Miller. The Patriots coach remains the gold standard.
Do you know who is not the gold standard in Miller’s estimation? Mike Zimmer.
Pro Football Network ranked all NFL skippers, plopping the Vikings head coach at the #20 hole on the list. He’s outranked by coaches like Brian Flores of the Miami Dolphins and Joe Judge from the New York Giants. Geez.
Miller defended his position [backhandedly assuring readers that Zimmer ain’t bad] in saying:
“It’s important to note that just because Mike Zimmer lands 20th in the NFL head coach rankings does not mean that he is a bad football coach. A revamped defense in 2021 could make us feel differently about where he should rank. However, it’s tough to get around his two playoff wins in seven seasons as the Vikings head coach. One of them was a miracle missed tackle against the New Orleans Saints.”
So, a missed tackle in the 2017 NFC Divisional Playoff game is the mentionable nugget here. Because Stefon Diggs broke free for a game-winning touchdown — Zimmer’s victory isn’t quite as sweet. Hopefully, Michael Jordan’s sly shove-off of Bryon Russell in 1998 isn’t on the docket for scrutiny. Just as history would be different if Diggs was tackled on the pass from Case Keenum, perhaps Jordan misses his famous game-winner if Russell was allowed to play honest-to-goodness defense.
This 20th ranking is smoldering with recency ashes. Because the Vikings were beset by injuries to Danielle Hunter, Michael Pierce (COVID opt-out), Anthony Barr, Eric Kendricks, and Mike Hughes — Zimmer’s coaching wherewithal and reputation took a hit from national punditry. That didn’t affect Belichick — who led his team to the same record as the Vikings. Zimmer is held to different criteria due to lack of playoff wins, evidently.
Zimmer took over leadership of the Vikings in 2014. Since then, his defensive brand of football is responsible for the league’s eighth-best winning percentage. And that includes the stinky 2020 season.
Eighth-best during his head coaching career and 20th-best per Miller are totally incongruent thoughts. Realistically, one could probably compromise and situate Zimmer in the middle — perchance at #14, swapping spots with Ron Rivera, who — you guessed it — also finished 7-9 in 2020.
Former Vikings offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski checked in ahead of Zimmer by five spots at #15. Andy Reid (#2), Mike Tomlin (#3), John Harbaugh (#4), and Sean Payton (#5) rounded out the Top 5.